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Bush may nominate Ridge next week

Senate action expected on homeland bill

From John King
CNN Washington Bureau

Tom Ridge, sources say, is President Bush's leading choice to lead the new Department of Homeland Security.
Tom Ridge, sources say, is President Bush's leading choice to lead the new Department of Homeland Security.

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WASHINGTON (CNN) -- President Bush could nominate White House homeland security adviser Tom Ridge as early as next week to lead the new Department of Homeland Security, administration officials said Friday.

Nearly a year ago, Ridge stepped down from the governorship of Pennsylvania to take the White House post.

As reported earlier this week by CNN, Ridge, according to several senior administration official, is Bush's choice to lead the new Cabinet agency, which would bring all or parts of 22 existing federal agencies and 170,000 federal workers under one roof.

A compromise measure creating the department passed the House this week and is expected to clear the Senate before the current "lame-duck" session of Congress ends, perhaps as early as Monday.

Plans are being made at the White House for a bill-signing ceremony as early as next week, and several officials say there is discussion of announcing the president's choice to lead the department at that event.

The hope is that the new Congress would quickly act on the nomination when it convenes in January.

Transition planning has been underway within the administration for months, and it has intensified in recent days as the prospects for the legislation improved in the wake of the Republican gains in the midterm elections.

The position of White House homeland security adviser will be maintained even as the new department gets up and running, and senior officials said a search was ongoing for candidates to replace Ridge in the White House job.

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